“I wanted to be looked at for my sports performance, not for my physique”
Coming from a modest family of six children in the Paris suburbs, Sarah Ourahmoune (41)…
Coming from a modest family of six children in the Paris suburbs, Sarah Ourahmoune (41) was boxing world champion in 2008, then Olympic vice-champion at the 2016 Rio Games, after becoming a mother. Today vice-president of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, she gives conferences, is involved in social issues and is also part of the Paris 2024 administration committee. .
I wouldn’t have come here if…
…my mother didn’t raise me the same as my older brother. She had been bathed in adverti*****ts for the French Judo Federation which praised rigor, discipline, a taste for effort. It was the time of David Douillet, she pushed us to do judo. I started practicing around 2 years old, before moving on to taekwondo.
My mother did not distinguish between “sport for girls” and “sport for boys”. At home, household chores belonged to everyone, regardless of gender. She herself had suffered greatly from this distinction in Algeria, where her brothers had been privileged: they ate first, the girls contented themselves with the leftovers; only boys were allowed to go to school. She didn’t want us to go through the same thing.
How was this egalitarian treatment decisive?
This allowed me, at the age of 14, to enter a boxing gym in Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis) without telling myself that I was a girl and that perhaps I had no place there. . I had opened the door to find out because the room next door, dedicated to taekwondo, had been set on fire.
The gym’s coach, Saïd Bennajem, has been a real ally for all these years. He had set up a school boxing program in town and was used to training mixed. He told me: “Try boxing, you’ll see, it’s great. It is the noble art, the fencing of the fists. He then accompanied me for sixteen years. I fell in love with boxing. He spoke to me about this sport with great beauty.
Has your mother always been a role model for you, she who left her country to flee a forced marriage?
She comes from a small backward village, located one hour from Oran. Over there, as soon as the girls got their school certificate, we started to ogle the good families to marry them off. His sisters had been placed, his turn was coming.
She still managed to convince her mother to let her study nursing. The deadline was approaching: he was told that so-and-so had come to ask for his hand. She fled to Paris when she was barely 20 years old. A fine example of courage.
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